May 25, 2019

Why can't every talk be a TED talk?



TEDxUCLA
TED talks are the "it girl" of speaking. Everyone wants their presentation to be as cool as a TED talk, as profound as a TED talk, and as viral as a TED talk.

I'm a huge fan of TED talks (and their locally-produced TEDx brethren). I've written about many of them here on Speak Schmeak, in fact. I admire the ability of TED speakers to quickly and concisely express their big idea in a compelling way, using stories, analogies and sometimes visuals to share their message.

When you only have 18 minutes or less to make an impact, you keep it simple.

However, in a TED talk, you also have minimal tools at your disposal. TED talks are time-limited on purpose: "...short enough to hold people's attention, including on the internet, and precise enough to be taken seriously. But it's also long enough to say something that matters."

In my workshops (which are often a day and a half long), I'm asked by my corporate training clients to address specific learning objectives and teach specific skills. Not only do I teach skills, but I also give my participants time to practice the skills they've learned.

I teach a range of public speaking concepts, provide activities and exercises to help the group internalize and remember the concepts, and then provide practical feedback as they practice the skills related to the concepts. There's also a lot of "white space," time to process what the group is learning, to take breaks and to sleep on new concepts.

Sorry, but 18 minutes isn't enough.

I remember reading a Seth Godin article once where he gave tips for effective presentations, and he suggested that the perfect length for a presentation was: "Most of the time, the right answer is, 'ten.' Ten minutes of breathtaking big ideas with big pictures and big type and few words and scary thoughts and startling insights. And then, and then, spend the rest of your time just talking to me. Interacting. Answering questions. Leading a discussion." Most of the time? I have to disagree.

There is no one right answer for how long a presentation should be. There is no one right answer for what style a presentation should be. There is no one right answer for "slides or no slides." 

There is no one right way to achieve the desired outcomes of a presentation, because there are many, many reasons we give presentations, and there are as many presentation styles as there are reasons to give presentations!

There's a reason we have 60-minute conference breakouts, and 20-minute keynotes, and short TED-style talks, and 2-minute quick tips, and "un-presentations," and PechaKucha, and pitch weekends, and group discussions, and Ignite-style talks, and 3-day workshops, and other alternative ways of presenting.

Each kind of presentation serves a unique purpose. Each audience has different needs and goals. Each presenter has different ways of achieving results.

My jam is training. Sure, I can do a ten-minute talk, and I have! I can do 60 seconds if necessary. I can be persuasive and inspiring and even teach some public speaking skills in that amount of time.

But it's not my preference, and the people who hire me do so because my jam is jumping into the deep end with their people and getting into the nitty gritty details of presentation skills, speaker mindset, confidence-building, audience engagement, ditching perfection and creating connection.

Truthfully, only about four hours of a 1 1/2-day training is straight content, though experiential. The rest of the time is practice, which sparks questions and discussion.

In follow-up surveys with clients who did experiential training vs. clients who only received the content but no practice, 90% of participants with experiential training are still using their skills three months later and 95% feel from 50-300% more confident about their speaking skills than they did before the training.

Contrast this result with participants who only received content (as well as all the tools at my disposal except practice: stories, analogies, exercises, activity, group discussion, visuals and more): only 79% of participants are still using their skills three months later. The confidence numbers are slightly lower, too. Okay, so these follow-up results aren't terrible (what can I say? I'm good at what I do...), but if my participants could do better with experiential learning, they should get experiential learning!

What are the needs of your audience? What is your jam as a presenter? 

I know everyone wants the "magic bullet," the one "right answer" to every question. What's the one magic way to lose weight and keep it off forever? What's the one magic way to make a million dollars and never have to worry about money again? What's the one magic way to give a presentation that wins you raving fans, clients and viral success?

Nope. There is no one right answer. No magic bullet. And no, every talk can't be a TED talk, nor should it be. 

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

May 2, 2019

Being vs. becoming



Twice in conversations with a client, she's told me, "I'm not a writer." And yet, she is a writer, because she writes!

Perhaps I'm oversimplifying a bit, because I suppose there's a difference between someone who writes all the time and enjoys it (whether or not they receive income from it), and a person who writes sometimes and finds it a struggle.

So, with this in mind, that there is a certain mental "picture" she might have about what a writer is, and a story she's telling herself about herself, I suggested she change the story to "I'm becoming a writer."

Because while it might be true that she doesn't fit her mental picture of what a writer is, it's also true that the more she writes, the more she becomes a writer.

I often hear from my clients and colleagues that they're "not speakers." And yet, they stand in front of audiences or classrooms or conference room tables and they speak, teach, train, inform, educate, persuade and inspire.

Does someone have to get paid for speaking to call themselves a speaker? Nope.

Does someone have to give formal speeches to call themselves a speaker? Nope. 

Do other people need to believe you're a speaker for you to believe you're a speaker? NOPE!

If you give presentations as part of your job; if your business requires you to teach something to people in groups; if you give regular reports or deliver information to groups of colleagues, clients, community members or other stakeholders... you're a speaker!

Maybe you only speak sometimes and you find it a struggle, like my client mentioned about her writing. You have the power to change the story you tell yourself. 

Are you a speaker? Maybe you're not quite mentally there yet. Are you becoming a speaker? Try that story on for size and see how it feels.

P.S. If you'd like some support in making that mental shift to start becoming the speaker you're meant to be, Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a free, no-pressure conversation to explore your speaking needs!

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

April 11, 2019

Speaking tips from "Serial"



I finally got around to finishing the original season of the podcast "Serial," in which the case of convicted murder Adnan Syed is re-evaluated in detail by investigative journalist Sarah Koenig.

I had listened to the first four episodes on a road trip last year, but never picked it up again. As I've been driving back and forth to Sacramento regularly for two months (a 6-hour drive), I decided to give investigative reporting podcasts another look, and finally finished "Serial."

Syed's defense attorney was a woman named Cristina Gutierrez (now deceased), who was known at the time as a "pitbull on the pant leg of justice." A tireless advocate for her clients, she went above and beyond to defend their cases.

This description of Gutierrez by Sarah Koenig really stood out to me.

"She did the first, or at least one of the first, DNA cases in Maryland. 

To figure out how to explain it to a jury, I heard a story that she went to a grade school and practiced. Each time a kid said he or she didn’t understand the science, she started over."

Let's be honest: How many of you work this hard to make sure your topic and concepts are understood by your audience? And when you're in the room with your audience, are you reading their reactions to see if they're with you, or do you just blow through your content, unaware of whether your audience is following along?

I work with a lot of clients who speak and train on complex topics. Over the years, my clients' topics have included companion diagnostics, affect regulation, Six Sigma certification, private capital markets, securities fraud (from the mouth of the felon himself!), the Affordable Care Act, and structured empowerment, none of which were familiar to me when I started working with the client.

One of my gifts is to help my clients make a topic I know nothing about understandable to a lay audience! However, some people hear "dumb it down" when I say "simplify." But these are two different things.

Simplifying means using plain English instead of jargon and acronyms. It means understanding where your audience is coming from and describing terms in ways that relate to what they already know about the world. It means using clear examples and analogies.

There's a reason a "pie chart" is called a "pie chart:" pretty much everyone in the world can envision cutting a pie into slices! This is not a "dumbed down" explanation of a pie chart, but rather a simplified explanation.

"Dumbing down" implies just that: your audience is dumb. It really comes from a place of disrespect. Whereas simplifying comes from a place of respecting your audience and figuring out what they need in order to navigate your possibly-complex topic.

Cristina Gutierrez practiced her explanation of DNA on children, but that doesn't mean she spoke to jurors like children! It means she boiled down the topic to its simplest components and then delivered that to intelligent adults in a way that made sense to them.

How can you simplify your concepts so that your audience really grasps what you're saying and can apply it to their own lives? If your audience is able to take action on what they've learned—and especially if they're able to explain it to someone else after hearing your presentation—then you're on the right track!

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

April 8, 2019

Get your free copy of Presenting for Humans before April 15



Hey y'all! I'm giving away 100 digital copies of Presenting for Humans: Insights for Speakers on Ditching Perfection and Creating Connection!

I'm celebrating the second anniversary of publishing my first book on April 14 and I want you to have a copy! The giveaway started today and 51 copies are already gone, so if you're a Goodreads member, get over there ASAP to reserve your free digital download.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Get your free copy of Presenting for Humans!

Presenting for Humans

by Lisa Braithwaite

Get your free copy of Presenting for Humans! Giveaway ends April 15.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway


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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

February 23, 2019

Learning is not a one-way street



I frequently hear colleagues and friends complain about all the money they’ve spent on coaching or training with disappointing results.

Literally never have I heard someone complain about all the work and effort they put into coaching or training, with disappointing results.

I’m going to flip our usual conversation on its head and instead of talking about your job as the one providing service, I’m going to talk about your job as the one receiving service. 

Whether you’re the training attendee or the coachee, you have responsibilities. 

Have you ever had those audience members who seem like they would rather be elsewhere? The audience members who don’t participate, who look annoyed, who spend all their time looking at their phone? Or worse, the audience member who’s constantly interrupting or trying to impress everyone with how much smarter they are than you?

Have you ever BEEN this audience member?

If we want “good” audiences (ask great questions, participate in exercises, express interest, stay awake), perhaps we should start with modeling good behavior ourselves as audience members. I often remind my audiences and my coaching clients that they get out of the relationship what they put into it. 

As speakers, we can’t expect to just pour knowledge into an audience of empty vessels. That’s not how it works. And as audience members, we can’t expect to sit back and have knowledge poured into us. 

Have you had a coaching client who wasn’t open to trying new things, who was unwilling to take risks and get outside of their comfort zone? Have you had a client unwilling to question their own current beliefs and practices, or unwilling to do work outside of the coaching sessions? 

I occasionally have a coaching client who expects me to hand him all the tools he needs on a silver platter. Instead of doing the work and pushing himself into new territory, he makes excuses about why he “can’t” do this thing or that thing. Or s/he comes to me with a last-minute event to prepare for and expects miracles.

Have you ever BEEN this coaching client?

Of course, coaching is a delicate process. It’s not easy to be comfortable with discomfort. I acknowledge those who come forward for coaching to improve their speaking skills and confidence, because it’s not an easy road.

But a coaching client or an audience member cannot just sit back and be a passive observer of the process.

The audience member or client cannot just “take” from the process and not “give.” This is a sure path to disappointment.

As an audience member, as a coaching client, you have a job to do as well! Spending the time, effort and energy (not just the money) to do your part contributes to a successful outcome for both the participant and the teacher.

It’s actually pretty easy to type your credit card number into an online order form or click that payment button in PayPal. That’s not the real work. And no one is going to unscrew your head and dump in a bunch of knowledge.

Pay attention to how you approach learning opportunities. Be honest with yourself.

It’s possible that these opportunities haven’t worked for you in the past because you were not fully committed or open to taking responsibility for the goals, focus, tasks, reflection, timelines, preparation, emotional exploration, and growth mindset necessary for a successful coaching or training process.


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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

December 29, 2018

Are you confident or complacent?



We all strive to be confident speakers; it's a standard by which we judge our own levels of experience and practice.

However, it's possible to be too confident, to become complacent over time about our own skills and abilities.

I made this short video to encourage you to look at where you might be resting on your laurels just a bit too much, to look at where it might benefit you to get out of your comfort zone and look honestly at where you could improve.

A new year is upon us, and many of us use these time markers as starting points to refresh our skills and habits. Is 2019 the year when you'll decide to take your speaking to the next level?

https://youtu.be/zFcOeh1zbRE

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

December 2, 2018

Four reasons to stop using PowerPoint



Many of my speaker colleagues reject the use of slides. They say slides are boring, prevent engagement, and distract the audience away from the speaker's message. And yep, they do. Especially when they look like this:


or this:


are loaded with cliches like this: 


or packed with bullets like this:


or when the presenter looks like this:


or when your images look like this:



So here are four reasons to stop using slides:

1. If you're still living in the 90s, using crap clip art and cartoons, please don't inflict your slides on audiences.

2. If you insist on listing everything you know about your topic in the form of bullet points or complex charts and graphs, please don't inflict your slides on audiences.

3. If you face the screen the whole time, reading from your slides so that you don't have to learn your content or interact, please don't inflict your slides on audiences.

4. If you're unwilling to learn and use best practices for visuals, like cutting down on text and complex graphs, using more images, and letting slides be the background and enhancement to your presentation, please don't inflict your slides on audiences.

For the rest of you who are challenging the old ways of "death by PowerPoint," carry on

Personally, I love PowerPoint. I have lots of fun creating slides that will illustrate my points and entertain my audiences. Slides can be part of an engaging, fun and creative presentation. PowerPoint doesn't force anyone to use bullets or to be boring.

And one final slide for you:


P.S. If you'd like a quick lesson in PowerPoint best practices, check out my virtual training here!


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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

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